I was looking for the perfect investment. It needed to be safe. And profitable. But the more you have to invest, the more you have to lose. And the safer the investment, the less likely it is to have wild profit margins. So I looked into my options.
I have a friend who’s really into penny stocks. You make small purchases here and there and everywhere. These are highly-speculative investments. A dime here, a dime there, and you never know which dimes might grow into dollars, and which will vanish into thin air.
My brother put every last penny into the down-payment on his house. He has a growing family, and not a lot of cash to spare. So every spare penny goes into that mortgage payment each month, to pay down the principal.“Branch out,” I said. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” But he told me he only has one egg, and it has to go to his family. Hard to argue with that, but it’s hardly an investment strategy.
A college friend keeps trying to get me into bitcoins. He says they’re the currency of the future. He’s always been an early adopter. You know the type—always whipping out some new gadget or app, and explaining how it’s going to change the world. But just because it’s trending doesn’t make it a good investment.
I thought about opening a high-yield savings account in my local credit union. It wouldn’t grow fast, but at least it would be safe. And after a hundred years, the value will have doubled. I wondered, though, how much of the money goes toward operation costs. And a hundred years is a long time.
My great-aunt invested everything she had with a financial advisor who turned out to be a scam artist. He had nice hair, and a Southern accent. “A true gentleman,” she told me. He even had his own tv show. But in the end, he had a new private jet and my aunt only had her social security check, and that was it. Why do old people always fall for these guys?
So I took my money, and put it under my mattress. It was just a temporary thing. I was only going to leave it there until I found the perfect investment. But everything looked too risky. Or too slow. Or both. And I was pretty young. I thought maybe I should save up a bit more before I settled on something. So I waited and looked and looked and waited. And after a while I got into this holding pattern, and I’ll be honest with you—I kinda forgot about it.
Well now, aren’t you sharp.
Last Sunday, my pastor preached on the Parable of the Talents, and it got me thinking about how careful we are with our talents. It isn’t always a bad thing. After all, we appreciate that God has entrusted enormous wealth to us. But there’s a difference between being wise and being a miser. God has lavished gifts on us, so we can afford to be extravagant. God didn’t reprimand Mary Magdalene for squandering a year’s wages when she poured her bottle of perfume on his feet. It’s too easy for me to look down my nose at other people’s investments and never get around to making my own. Like the one-talent servant, I act like God is just waiting for me to mess up. And I know I’m not alone. God has given us a talent, but we just sit on it, waiting for the perfect opportunity to come along.
I don’t want to be dealing in penny stocks—a smile here, a “Jesus loves you” there. If we’re sticking with my money metaphor, those things are pennies at best. But listen up: I can afford to throw pennies around. So why horde them? If Jesus turns a profit on a glass of water served to a little one, then who am I to turn up my nose at penny stocks? God uses pennies.
A down payment and mortgage are always a good investment. Our family members are the first beneficiaries of our time and talents. But God didn’t call us to consolidate. He called us to make disciples.
And how often do I treat my church like my local credit union? Yes, of course I should have my savings account there. But I have to go beyond savings. Neighbors, coworkers, and soccer moms need God’s love. Shouldn’t I put my time and energy and joy and hard work there too? Or should I save them all for the church? If I do that, it may as well be a credit union.
And what about new trends—church plants and schools and missionaries and fund drives and websites? I don’t need to be a trendsetter. But sometimes a new venture is just a beautiful, fragile thing that needs our time and support.
Of course, I’m going to steer clear of charlatans and televangelists, and I’ll tell my aunt to turn off TBN. It’s possible to squander God’s gift. We need to make wise investments, not get duped by con artists. But I haven’t been wise, I’ve only been paralyzed by suspicion. Charlatans are not the biggest risk to my talent. Holes are.
Let me end by telling you a true story about my grandpa. Grandpa was not a careful man. He was desperate to turn a profit, and he lost a lot of money on stupid ventures when he really couldn’t afford to. One year, he tried to start a Christmas tree farm. It didn’t work. Another year, he gave all his money to some shady character with a coffee plantation in South America. He never heard from the guy again. Then there was the time he invested in the stock market. It was a disaster. But guess what? He kept trying. And then he got really rich.
Grandpa handled God’s blessings the same way he handled money. He was desperate to grow the kingdom of God. He poured time and effort and money he didn’t have into half-baked ideas—ideas that others weren’t willing to take a risk on. And God blessed those investments like crazy. Sure, there were some bad ones in there. But the bad investments are dwarfed by the good ones. Grandpa was extravagant with God’s gifts, bordering on reckless. And God used that extravagance to extend His Kingdom in ways that my grandpa never anticipated.
So I’m repenting of burying my talent. I’m ready to take risks. I’m going to make some bad investments with the good, and trust that God will see to the dividends.